Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Sep 2012

NFL Lockout of Officials is Over

It looks like there's an agreement, and the regular officials will return tonight. Now we can get back to complaining about how nobody understands the rules for pass interference, instead of complaining about how nobody understands any of the rules, period.

The league released the following terms of the agreement:

  • The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan then will be frozen.
  • Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
  • Apart from their benefit package, the game officials' compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 per year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
  • Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
  • The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes and can assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Sep 2012

44 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2012, 10:53pm by LionInAZ


by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 8:54am

If the new CBA does not contain a provision which prohibits Phil Luckett from being within 50 miles of a stadium in which an NFL game is being played, this sacrifice will have been in vain.

by drobviousso :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:37am

But think of his legacy. He gave us labor peace. He gave us the 'call the coin before I flip it' rule. He ran into Joe Horn that one time.

What great innovation will the league not get if they kept walking entropy field out of the game?

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 11:11am

Well, I had no idea that NFL owners had such a fine appreciation of irony, until I heard that they had hired Phil to do video reviews for the league, in an effort to mitigate the effects of having replacements, due to a labor lockout, with one of the issues in dispute being how much leeway the league would have with refs who are deemed to be giving an inadequate performance. Shakespeare's got nuthin' on Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones!

by Ryan D. :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:07am

I want to see Mike Carey come up on stage at the referee's meeting and say:

"After further review, the ruling on the field stands. The CBA has been ratified. Touchdown, referees."

by Paul R :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:23am

Now that it's over, let's take a minute to thank the replacement refs. (cue "Battle Hymn of the Republic")
Even though they weren't up to the job, they went out there and did the best they could in front of thousands of angry fans and millions of angry television viewers. They put their asses on the line so we could have football, such as it was. Even though there was much outrage and controversy, every football game started on schedule and was played the regulation sixty minutes, with maybe a few extra time-outs.
Gentlemen, thank you. You can go back to your junior-high schools and insurance agencies with your head held high. You did your country a service.

Now bring on Hochuli!!

by Jimmy :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:34am

You did your country a service.

Just stay the heck out of Wisconsin.

by Kulko :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:38am


by Paddy Pat :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 12:29pm

Frankly, I kinda disagree with this sentiment. By rising to the occasion to become scabs, they hurt the negotiations of the real refs, prolonging the labor dispute--if no one had taken the jobs, the issue would have been settled much faster. The scabs didn't take their positions for the good of the game; they did it for a paycheck and for a big walloping dose of "how cool, I'm refing an NFL game, mom, dad, look at me!"

Yeah, they caught sh*t for it, but they were being compensated fine. Do you cheer the replacement post-office person who comes in when your guy's squabbling over vacation dates and promptly loses your mail?

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 1:03pm

Yes, because the dude that makes $150K for working less than 200 hours per year, AND gets a pension, is completely comparable to the guy that works ten times the hours for probably one fifth of the pay.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 3:19pm

What's wrong with doing it for a paycheck and a big walloping dose of "how cool"?

What motivation would, say, an NAIA ref who gets paid hardly anything have for supporting the comparatively wealthy NFL refs that way? And how could they possibly pass up the chance to referee an actual NFL game?

If you were a small college ref, and got that opportunity, do you think you'd pass it up in order to support NFL refs who were arguing with the NFL over whether they should get $150,000 or $200,000? (In know that's a bit of hyperbole...) I know I would have jumped at the chance to referee NFL games.

by Paddy Pat :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 5:00pm

Heck, so would I, but why should we applaud for them now that their hour of strutting and fretting is over? They came in, made some money, got some laughs, screwed up a bunch of calls and now they're being yanked. Let's breath a collective sigh of relief and hope we never have to see them again.

They did a tough job--badly. I just don't get thanking them now that they're on their way out. That's like thanking Westmoreland for bringing us Vietnam. Heck, it was tough job, and you botched it royally. Thanks for the effort?

by dbostedo :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 7:10pm

Honestly, I don't think I realized what you were objecting to. The original post by Paul R was supposed to be very sarcastic and back-handed - i.e. we should thank them as little as possible. Like when you look at someone and say "Thanks for doing a ... job". They think you're going to say "great job" and you don't, so it's a back-handed hollow complement.

That's what Paul was going for. He wasn't legitimately sincerely thanking the replacement refs.

by B :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 6:47pm

Wait, why do I have to salute scabs again? You say they did their country a service, but had the replacements refused to take the field, the NFL would have been forced to come to an agreement before the season started, and we could have avoided this whole mess.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 7:11pm

The original post by Paul R was supposed to be very sarcastic and back-handed - i.e. we should thank them as little as possible. Like when you look at someone and say "Thanks for doing a ... job". They think you're going to say "great job" and you don't, so it's a back-handed hollow complement.

That's what Paul was going for. He wasn't legitimately sincerely thanking the replacement refs.

by B :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:39pm

My sarcasm detector is broken. Sadly, I've seen a lot of commentors on the internet who would agree with the literal intrepretation of his comments.

by Paul R :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:36pm

Honestly, it was a bit of both. If it had been only one week, my sentiment would have been 100% sarcasm, but three weeks?

I can't help but feel a little bit of respect for a guy who can put on the stripes and walk up the tunnel knowing that he's probably going to stink up the place, knowing that nobody wants him there, and still go out and act with authority as best he can. It's the ultimate hot seat. If you think it's a touchdown, you have to say so right then, in front of a million people. At best, a disaster will fail to occur.

I know, I know-- scabs, player safety, no argument. Nobody is happier than me to see the regular officials back.
What's the movie quote? "He's silly and he's ignorant, but he's got guts. And guts is enough."

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:30am

I'm sorry Robert Hegyes didn't live to see it, but Welcome Back!

by ebongreen :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:42am

So - who won what at the bargaining table in the refs vs. the NFL? Having not tracked the negotiations, I'd like to see how much the NFL eventually caved.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:28am

Eh, looks like pretty much a push, because the differences weren't that large to begin with. The major concession by the owners seems to be waiting four years before phasing out the defined benefit pension plan. The major concession by the refs seems to be eventually getting to a defined contribution plan, and allowing a bench of refs to be developed, and some full time guys, so the league can get rid of guys pretty easily if they don't like someone's performance.

The funny thing is that if the league had placed somebody with a clue in the booth in Seattle Monday night, instead of Phil Luckett, and thus the booth review at the end of the game had resulted in a Packer victory, it is pretty likely the league would have continued to press for Total Victory over the zebra union. Note to NFL owners; if you want to try to get by with Lingerie League officials, it's a good idea to have a guy upstairs who can set things right, instead of make things worse.

by MTR (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:01am

I didn't track it very closely myself, but it looks very much like the refs got most of what they wanted. I know they proposed that grandfathered pension plan earlier.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 12:25pm

Why does somebody have to win?

What I’m hoping is that this is a deal that both sides can live with for the long term. I’m hoping when the deal expires, both sides are willing to extend it rather than going through this again.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:47am

•Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.

I do hope the NFL takes full advantage of this and starts a program where talented young men (and women) will be scouted and hired full-time, forming a core group that works not only during the NFL season but during the offseason to improve officiating. I'm not sure all the NFL referees need to be fulltime. But I think at least 25% should be.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:39am

The NFL wants to have one full time official on each group to make sure information, dvds and so forth are distributed between the rest of the crew. They are really being asked to take on a preparatory role, nothing more than that.

by Independent George :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 11:46am

Is he really considered a ref, though? That description sounds more like an office manager than anything else. The refs' perspective makes perfect sense. This employee's job description aligns him with management rather than the workers, so categorizing him as a ref effectively creates a conflict of interests within the union. A more paranoid person, such as myself, would think that was the exact intention, and consider it an act of bad faith in negotiations.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 2:15pm

My description may not be entirely accurate, add grains of salt to taste.

But the owners really should start a conflict resolution business called, "Bad Faith Negotiations." The name would be apt.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 7:07pm

In addition to what you mention

The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes and can assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.

basically is giving the NFL the ability to replace existing refs any time they want with someone who was in the training the pool. It sounds like they could have the training pool be bigger than the pool of active refs if they wanted to.

So in a way the refs are more like players. There could be a young guy sitting on the bench ready to take your job now. This is where the regular refs lost, as they don't have the same level of job security anymore.

So yeah I'm hoping they have a full timer on each crew, in the referee position preferably. Someone who during games is in the position of the most authority, and during the offseason is training that unspecified, league control pool of trainees. That will help them stay sharp on the rules (there is something to the best way to learn is to teach cliche) and how to position, where to focus attention. Which should lead to better calls on the field as well.

The point you made and this one are the ones I'm most happy about as they have the best chance of upping the quality and consistency of how games are called, and chances for improvement of game management/pace.

by Independent George :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:48am

Nothing summarized above sounds all that horrible for either side; it really took this long to end up there?

Regarding pensions, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to grandfather in existing pension obligations while putting new hires on a defined benefit plan. Just about every transition from defined benefit to defined contribution involves something along these lines (though not usually this generous). I'm very curious as to what was actually in dispute.

I'm not sure how having full-timers mixed in with the part-timers will work. Is it a management/worker model, where the management is year-round and the workers are seasonal? Given that the 'workers' will be the ones with all of the experience, I'm not sure how well that will work. Heck, I'm not even sure what the full-timers are supposed to do in the offseason.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:00am

Agreed, I just don't see how they couldn't have done this deal two months ago. Why does the NFL always bargain like that? Still, nobody got porked but the Packers and I can live with that.

by TomKelso :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:22am

The Packers, the Patriots, the Ravens -- tipping points are never isolated.

Now who wants to set a pool on the first "the replacements weren't THAT bad" commentary in the media?

by RickD :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 11:53am

I'm surprised that even the NFL Network has a lot of people on today ripping the replacement refs.

by TomKelso :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 1:42pm

Not even the boss loves a scab when it's no longer needed....

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:51am

The Green Bay Packers were apparently the blood sacrifice needed to appease the Football Gods.

by snoopy369 :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:56am

As a Bears fan, I think I'm okay with that.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:07am

That's the way it goes with sacrificial gifts always the beautiful virgin not the toothless hag. I'm sure there are some fans who who would relish seeing their current team ruthlessly sacrificed. Instead the gods torment them with mediocre to miserable play, underachieving draft picks and bumbling playcalling.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:58am

Roger Goodell announcing the new deal:


(Stadler and Waldorf really sum it up at the end.)

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:00am

The media will now go back to ignoring all the horrible calls made by the regular officiating crews.

by zzyzx :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:04am

Wait, the Seahawks got a bad call in their favor? This must end now!

by countertorque :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 12:31pm

As a steeler fan, that really was the last straw for me. I'm glad to see we can get back to business as normal now.

by Paddy Pat :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 12:33pm

I'm gonna second that. The first thing I thought when I saw that Seattle had stolen a game from Green Bay on refing was, heh, cosmic justice. Too bad it wasn't a playoff game.

by GroshKar (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 4:13pm

Now we can get back to ignoring South Alaska, as is right and proper.

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 09/28/2012 - 8:19am

"Canada's Mexico" or "Baja Canada" is the prefered nomenclature.

by jebmak :: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 1:53pm

In a perfectly reffed game, I think that the Seahawks might have still won. So, I'm glad that it ended on a 'controversial' call like that, to get this done.

by masoch (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2012 - 4:14pm

Wow... $173k a year, PART time? For that pay rate, they should all be working year round already. And full time.

by LionInAZ :: Sun, 09/30/2012 - 10:53pm

There are plenty of people out there who make far more money for far less work. Corporate boards of directors, for example.